Discovering New Possibilities at Tricia Downing’s Camp Discovery

camp discovery for women with disabilities and spinal cord injuries

Tricia Downing has always been a competitive, physically active person from as early as she can remember. As a child, she enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, and running, among other activities, but her true love was bicycling and competitively racing.

She could never have imagined that a day spent doing her favorite thing in the world would end with her in the hospital, unable to feel her legs, after she was hit by a car. In one fateful moment, her life was changed forever.

Life after her accident might have been much different if she’d chosen to let it keep her down. It would’ve been easy to give up, but she had an undying passion to stay active and overcome her challenges.

tricia downing spinal cord injury

After the Spinal Cord Injury

After she’d been knocked from her bicycle over the hood of the car, the minutes until the emergency services arrived felt excruciatingly long, but soon, she was escorted quickly to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver. Over three weeks were spent there in intensive care, as they tried to determine the full extent of her injuries. After that, she was transferred to Craig Hospital for the rehabilitation process, where she had to re-learn how to accomplish basic daily tasks like transferring from her wheelchair to her bed, getting in and out of the shower on her own, and more.

tricia downing paraplegic hand cyclingThe physical and occupational therapy she received was the foundation for her new life, but her time spent in recreational therapy, also known as rec therapy, became her favorite thing to do while she was still in the rehabilitation hospital. Her rec therapist let her know that she was going to help Tricia get back to doing the things she loved and introduce her to new activities too. Tricia was introduced to hand-cycling, and after one ride, she was hooked.

New Wheels Rolling

One of the first things Tricia decided to do after being released from rehab was to get involved in wheelchair sports. She knew it would be a challenge, but she wanted to face it all head-on and not let her injury hold her back from doing things she loved.

I think one of the things about having an accident such as this, having a change of life, is that it really makes you look inside and see who you are. When I got out of Craig Hospital, I knew that I could do more with myself. I basically got a second chance, so I knew I had to do something great.
Tricia Downing

trish downing paraplegic athlete paralympics headshotSince her accident, she has completed over 100 races, including marathons, and she was the first female paraplegic to complete an Ironman triathlon. She also qualified for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in 2006 and 2010 and competed on the U.S. Rowing team in the World Championship in 2011.

Eventually, she was drawn to the competitive sport of shooting in 2014, and she finished 17th in a 2015 World Cup event. She also competed on the U.S. Team in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

Still, there were more goals for Tricia while she continued leading a physically active lifestyle and competing in sports. She wanted to give back to others who had been injured or had disabilities. She wanted to be equipped to help them find a way to enjoy fitness and physical activity, just like her. So, with that goal in mind, she became a professional speaker and also decided to go back to school, where she completed Master’s Degrees in both Disability Studies and Sports Management.

This became the foundation for her next big goal.

Opening New Doors With Camp Discovery

camp discovery yoga for women with spinal cord injuriesIn 2009, nine years after her accident, Tricia founded a camp in Colorado specifically for women 21-years-old and up who are in wheelchairs for conditions like spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and other conditions. Aptly named Camp Discovery, this camp helps these women to redefine their lives and forget the old limits. The three-day camp teaches female wheelchair-users all about physical fitness but also allows them to have time to create new friendships with others with similar experiences and obstacles. Combining holistic and physical wellness practices, the camp activities help women to find a place of confidence, security, and self-acceptance.

Over the years, the camp has grown, and women from all over the country attend each year at the beautiful Rocky Mountain Village in Empire, Colorado. In addition to being able to commune with one another and forge new friendships, the female camp-goers are offered the opportunities to participate in such sports and activities as:

  • Wheelchair tennis
  • SCUBA diving
  • Horseback riding
  • Art therapy
  • Nutrition classes
  • Massage
  • Yoga and pilates
  • Swimming
  • Sled hockey
  • Kayaking
  • and more!

trish downing at camp discovery

Tricia wanted to be able to show women in wheelchairs that there is still fun to be had in life, no matter their condition, and to let them know that they’re not alone. Today, her goal continues to be helping others overcome their fears and limiting beliefs to unlock new possibilities for themselves.

Today, Tricia continues to be involved at Camp Discovery each year, and she also does professional speaking engagements to talk about her life path and motivate others to believe in themselves, no matter their disability or condition.

Learn more about Tricia and her amazing story at:

tricia downing motivational speaker sci quote

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About the Author
Jessica is the Senior Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical. She's been a part of the 180 family for over 11 years. Her favorite parts of working at 180 Medical are our values of compassion and integrity and the positive impact we help make on peoples' lives.

She loves writing, creating art, cooking, gardening, and spending time with her fiancé and their 3 dogs.